From Socialist Voice, May 2011

International

Mexican cultural and historic site under threat

According to Wixarika legend, the land of Wirikuta is where the sun was born. Every year for more than a thousand years the indigenous people walk 500 km to this sacred land, where they perform rituals while maintaining their cultural harmony with nature.
     In 1994 Wirikuta was declared a “site of Cultural and Historical Heritage and an Area under Ecological Conservation.” In 2001 UNESCO declared it a Sacred Natural Site. It is also an important bird sanctuary.
     Despite being a protected and culturally important area, the lands are under siege from a Canadian mining transnational, First Majestic Silver. The local people are fighting against this company while still suffering the consequences of the last mining expedition in the area.
     Twenty years ago a mining company finished operations, leaving behind ghost towns, mining shafts, contamination to water and soil, and increased poverty. Now more damage is being threatened on the local community and landscape.
     First Majestic Silver hopes to reopen the mines using new technology. They hope to exhaust the remaining silver supplies as well as to exploit other minerals in the area.
     They have claimed that the use of cyanide and other dangerous substances will be contained and will therefore not pollute the surrounding areas.
     However, only last year researchers discovered traces of arsenic in plant and animal samples in the area, left over from mining’s last adventure in the area.
     This is against Convention 169 of the International Labour Organisation, which clearly states that native people must be consulted regarding any activities that affect their territories. Regarding this area in Mexico, no consultations have ever taken place. Not only that but in 2008 the president of Mexico, Felipe Calderón, signed the Hauxa Manaka Accord, which was designed to protect these very lands. At the same time Calderón is happy to sidestep these very laws
     Recently, traditional leaders in Wixarika signed an official statement rejecting First Majestic Silver’s mining project in their area. They demanded the end of their activities in the area while advising that they will do everything within their means to defend their lands from the mining company. The local residents are preparing for a bitter struggle against this foreign company which, as history has shown, will bring nothing but destruction and death.
[JM]

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